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Security heightened as torch starts Asean tour


April 18, 2008

Security heightened as torch starts Asean tour

Beijing Olympics logo2008

Thai authorities stepped up security to cope with possible protests as the Olympic torch arrived in Thailand’s capital early Friday morning from New Delhi, India.

General Yutthasak Sasiprapha, President of the National Olympic Committee of Thailand (NOCT), inviting the public  to participate as it was the first time for Thailand to hold an Olympic torch relay, said urged them help make sure the relay runs smoothly.

Activists and non-governmental organizations in Thailand were reportedly preparing a protest China’s crackdown on dissidents in Tibet during the torch relay. Earlier, one of the designated Thai torch-bearers, Narisa Chakrabongse, founder and chairwoman of the Green World Foundation, earlier withdrew in protest.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama has said Thai officials would not let any protester put out the Olympic torch, assuring that there would be maximum security during the ceremony. He also warned lawbreakers of harsh punishment.

The torch has drawn protests over China's policies, in particular its crackdown last month on unrest in Tibet and human rights in general.

Demonstrators are protesting at China's security crackdown in Tibet after recent unrest against Chinese rule. Tibetan exile groups say Chinese security forces killed dozens of protesters. Beijing says about 19 people were killed in rioting.

The Bangkok relay ceremony on Saturday (April 19) will be presided over by Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, daughter of highly revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej. The torch relay will start in Chinatown, and pass the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, the Ministry of Defence, Chitralada Palace, and Government House, before ending at the Royal Plaza.

The flame was lit in Olympia, Greece, on 24 March and is being relayed through 20 countries before being carried into the opening ceremony at the Beijing Games on 8 August.

The Olympic torch kicked off a tour of Asia and Australia on Wednesday (April 16), when it reached Islamabad, Pakistan amidst heightened security following a wave of anti-China protests during stopovers in Europe and the Americas.

From New Delhi, India, the torch proceeded to Bangkok, Thailand where it starts the tour of Asean. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Jakarta, Indonesia, and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, are the other Asean cities which participate in the torch relay.

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